A federal grand jury indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, alleging that they interfered in the U.S. presidential election in an attempt to support the campaign of President Donald Trump, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office announced.
Some of the people traveled to the U.S. to gather information about what regions to target, the indictment alleged. They created false social media accounts, at times stealing real people's identities.
The effort also involved communications with the Trump campaign itself, the complaint said.
"Some defendants, posing as U.S. persons and without revealing their Russian association, communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump campaign," the indictment said.
The indictment further alleges that the defendants worked through American grassroots organizations.
Social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter were used to spread information denigrating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Trump, the indictment said. Thousands of dollars were spent every month on advertisements on various social media platforms.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, defendants organized rallies both supporting Trump and protesting his election. After Trump was elected, those accused organized rallies in support of the new president, as well as rallies protesting his election, it alleged.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a news conference after the indictment was unveiled that there were no indications that any American "was a knowing participant" in the activities alleged in the indictment.
The activities began in 2014 and continued to the present, according to the indictment. No one named in the indictment is in custody, a spokesman for the special counsel said.
After the indictment was released, Trump took to Twitter claiming a measure of vindication. "Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President," he wrote. "The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!"
The special counsel's investigation has already resulted in several indictments including former Trump campaign advisers Paul Manafort and Richard Gates. George Papadopoulos, another Trump campaign adviser, and Trump's ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn have pleaded guilty.
Shortly after releasing the Russia indictments, Mueller's office announced that Richard Pinedo of Santa Paula, Calif., pleaded guilty to identity fraud for selling bank account numbers online. Pinedo frequently bought bank account numbers from someone he knew to be living outside the U.S.
There is no indication that the Russian indictment and Pinedo's guilty plea are related.
An attorney representing Pinedo could not be immediately reached for comment.